I suppose that, after the success of Mad Men in the United States, it was inevitable that other series set in the ‘50s would come to pass. Not that I’m declaring the UK’s The Hour to have been inspired by that famous Yankee series about advertising executives in any way, shape, or form: after all, it’s usually my fellow Americans who wind up taking a cue from British programs — so, if this BBC show set in the ‘50s truly was born on account of the glimmering limelight produced by the other network title, I would say it was a fair cop. Of course, comparing the two is like weighing an apple against an orange: they’re both of the same family, but wholly dissimilar.
Hailed as one of the top 10 series of 2011 by The New York Times, The Hour is a captivating six-part tale that focuses on the beginning (and possibly end) of a new current affairs program entitled “The Hour” on the BBC in 1956. Though “The Hour” is essentially the brainchild of an eager beaver newsreel producer, Freddy Lyon (the unbelievable thin Ben Whishaw, who looks like Great Britain’s answer to James Franco), his longtime gal pal Bel Rowley (Romola Garai) receives the greenlight to produce it, and studio heads appoint no-nonsense anchor Hector Madden (Dominic West) with almost no ability to improvise to host.
This immediately creates a tension between our male protagonists, which progresses as married man Madden begins to eye his new producer — an encroachment of his own union that does not go ignored by the single career woman. Meanwhile, our lead character, Freddy, submerges himself into a dangerous mystery as he is alerted to a conspiracy by an old friend of his — a young lass who soon winds up dead. Further strain is placed upon all who work to produce “The Hour” as the Suez Crisis unfolds, communist spies are purported to be working within the BBC, and members of the government begin to pop up all over the studio.
Created and penned by The Iron Lady screenwriter, Abi Morgan, The Hour also stars Anton Lesser, Joshua McGuire, the beautiful Lisa Greenwood, Anna Chancellor, and Oona Castilla Chaplin (Charlie’s granddaughter). BBC Video brings this wonderful series to the US on Blu-ray (it was previously released in Canada) in a two-disc set that presents all six one-hour episodes with beautiful High-Def transfers and Stereo sound (sorry, that’s all we get). Two behind-the-scenes featurettes are included on Disc Two, and give a lot of insight into the show from the cast and crew’s perspectives.
Series Two of The Hour has been commissioned and should air later this year, so now’s a good time to catch up.